The first thing you saw clearly was the guy up in the tree, someone from your graduating class. He stood on a thick branch, one hand still holding to the trunk. Below, the rest of the class were gathered around the bonfire, watching him, and all of them were drumming. Some on the ground, or on their own thighs, or the backs of books. There were even some teachers there, and other adults you didn't recognize. And it wasn't some repetitive thud-thud-thud without variation,
but a complicated, cycling pattern. Something that had taken serious practice. None of them had noticed you yet.
The one up in the tree, one of three different Matts in your class, stepped off the branch – and into open air. His bare foot took his weight, supported on nothing, and then he took another step, and another, until he was walking in midair.
You almost ran out there to join them, ecstatic at the impossible sight. Instead? Just as you set one foot forward, so did he, and it went out from under him. He fell, with a short but sharp scream, and crunched to the ground. His head turned the wrong way. Very wrong.
The others barely noticed. One got up and started climbing the same tree, and the drumming adjusted to pick up his missing part. At the same branch, he stepped off into thin air... and fell to join the dead Matt on the ground below. One by one, each of the other students got up and took their turn. A handful made it to another tree and climbed back down, but many, many fell and joined the others.
By the time everyone had taken their turn, and the bodies disposed of in the bonfire – now grown huge and bloated with flesh and fresh wood – the night sky was starting to gray in the east. Remembering overheard stories of older siblings “gone away to college” and never coming back even during summer breaks, you bolted before anyone could spot you in the growing light.
Away at college, you worked to put the town firmly out of your mind. However, your sister frequently called you up, lonely because now she had nobody there but your parents to even talk to. Her calls gradually took on a different tone at the beginning of the spring semester, of growing acceptance amongst the others. You were still in the middle of exams when high school graduation came around, and you tried to warn her off from the after-party. Instead, she just laughed at your story and hung up